The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently greenlighted Phoenix Air Unmanned to conduct Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations. This decision followed an earlier call by the FAA in May for public feedback on BVLOS waiver applications, with several entities, including Phoenix Air Unmanned, uAvionix, Zipline, and UPS Flight Forward applying.
Phoenix Air Unmanned's newly granted waiver allows them to undertake diverse BVLOS operations, encompassing aerial tasks, photography, and the inspection of powerlines and pipelines. These approved activities will occur below an altitude of 400 feet, predominantly over specific roads and areas with sparse populations, and will strictly adhere to predetermined flight paths.
Central to this approval is the vehicle of choice, the SwissDrones SVO 50 V2 UAS, an uncrewed helicopter that exceeds a weight of 55 pounds. This helicopter comes with a unique airworthiness certification, emphasizing the significance and evolving nature of BVLOS operations, especially for industries eyeing long-range infrastructure and remote operation capabilities. The ability to command operations from distant control centers also showcases the potential and direction of this technology.
Phoenix Air Unmanned's ambitions with this waiver extend beyond immediate use. The company plans to harness the capabilities of the SVO 50 V2 UAS for R&D, as well as training initiatives, paving the way for future authorizations tailored to regular flights. Phoenix Air Unmanned is also keen on evaluating larger aircraft to meet emerging business needs, particularly in enhancing flight endurance and payload capacity. This approach ensures the BVLOS operations, under the purview of this waiver, will concentrate mainly on rural areas and regions with a low population density.
While a conclusive rule on BVLOS operations remains, the agency has exhibited a consistent trend in granting waivers. This is in line with their objective to collect relevant data from the field. In a strategic move last year, the FAA inaugurated the Beyond Visual Line of Sight Aviation Rulemaking Committee and is presently poring over the committee's conclusive report. As the aviation landscape evolves, the industry keenly awaits further updates on other BVLOS waiver applications currently under FAA's scrutiny.